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them! Thou art the source and centre of all my wishes and desires; even as the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! Oh! when shall I appear in thy presence? When, when shall that blessed time come, that I shall see thy sacred Majesty face to face? This is a mercy, I confess, which I cannot expect, whilst imprisoned in the body: but, howsoever, though I must not yet appear before thee, do thou vouchsafe to appear in me, and give me such glympses of thy love and graces here, as may be an earnest of the bliss and glory I am to enjoy hereafter!
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to hope for nothing so much as the promises, and to fear nothing so much as the threatenings, of God.
My soul being inflamed with holy desires after God, my heart cannot but be big with the hopes and expectations of him: and, truly, as there is nothing that I can absolutely desire, so neither is there any thing that I can assuredly hope for and depend upon, but God himself, and the promises he has made to me in his divine word. For, as all things derive their being and subsistence from him, so they are all at his beck and command, and are acted and influenced as his wisdom and pleasure sees fit to order them. All the secondary causes are in his hand, and he turns them which way soever he will; so that, however improbable and disproportionate the means he uses may appear to be, he never fails to accomplish the end, or whatever he wills and decrees to be done. And, therefore, wherever I meet with any promises made over to the faithful in his sacred word, (since they are the promises of one who is infinitely just and true, who can neither dissemble, nor deceive,) I cannot in the least doubt, but they will be punctually fulfilled; and if I am of that happy number, (as I trust, through the
merits of Christ, and my own sincere endeavours, I shall approve myself to be,) I have as much assurance of being partaker of them, as if I had them actually in possession, or as any of the faithful servants of God, who have already experienced the accomplishment of them.
But, suppose God should not favour me with the bright part of his promises, but, instead of the blessings of health and prosperity, should visit me with crosses and afflictions; yet, I have still the same grounds for my hope and confidence in him, and may say, with the Psalmist, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what the devil or man can do unto me. For, though their spite and malice may sometimes cross, afflict, and persecute me; yet, since I am assured, they are only as instruments in the hand of God, that cannot go beyond their commission, nor make me suffer more than I am able to bear, I may comfort myself, under all these afflictions, by the same divine promise that St. Paul had recourse to, on the like occasion; to wit, that all shall work together for good to them that love God, who are the called, according to his purpose, Rom. viii. 28. The devil could not touch the possessions of Job, till he had received a commission from God; nor could he come near his body, till that commission was renewed; and so, neither can he, or any creature whatsoever, throw any evil upon me, without the divine permission; and even that, though it seems to be evil, shall really, in the end, turn to my benefit and advantage. Oh! what a sovereign antidote is this against all despondency and despair, even under the deepest and severest trials? Permit me, O,my God! to apply this sacred promise to myself, and say, I am assured of it, by my own experience! For I can hardly remember any one thing that ever happened to me, in the whole course of my life, even to the crossing of my most earnest desires, and highest expectations, but what I must confess, to the praise of thy grace and goodness, has really, in the end, turned to my advantage another way. Oh! make me truly sensible
of all thy promises to, and dealings with, me, that whatever storms and surges may arise in the tempestuous ocean of this transient world, I may still fix the anchor of my hope and happiness in thee, who art the source and spring of all blessings, and without whom no evil or calamity could ever befal me!
And as the promises of God, upon all those accounts, are to be the object of my hope; so are his threatenings to be of my fear and aversation: as the former are of excellent use to raise and revive the most drooping hearts, so the latter are of weight enough to sink and depress the stoutest and most undaunted spirits, and make them lick up the dust of horror and despair. Not to mention any thing of the exquisite and eternal miseries denounced against the wicked in the next world, with which the Scriptures every where abound, there is one punishment threatened to be inflicted here, which is, of itself, sufficient to do this; and that is, in Mal. ii. 2. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Most dreadful sentence! which none, that consider aright, can be able to read, without trembling and astonishment. Alas! if God should curse me, where should I seek for blessing, since he is the only fountain from which it flows, and by which it is conveyed and communicated to me? And if he should curse my very blessings, what could I hope for, but misery and despair? My health, my wealth, my preferments, my relations, nay, my very life itself, would all be accursed to me; and what is yet worse, even my spiritual exercises and performances, upon which I chiefly build my hopes of happiness, my preaching, praying, and communicating, would all become a snare and a curse to me: yea, and Christ himself, who came into the world to bless and redeem me, if I walk not in his fear, believe not his Gospel, or give not glory to his name, will himself be a curse and condemnation to me. So that I may
say of every thing I have, or enjoy, or expect, all these God has made curses to me, because I have not blessed and glorified him in them. Oh! who would not tremble and be wrought upon by these threatenings? Who would not fear thee, O King of nations, who art thus terrible in thy judgments? Who would not love and obey thee, who art so gracious in thy promises? Teach me, I beseech thee, so to place my fear upon the former, that I may still fix my hope upon the latter, that though I fear thy dreadful curses, yet I may never despair of thy tender mercies!
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to arm myself with that spiritual courage and magnanimity, as to press through all duties and difficulties whatsoever, for the advancement of God's glory, and my own happiness.
CHRISTIANITY is well termed a warfare; for a warfare it is, wherein no danger can be prevented, no enemy conquered, no victory obtained, without much courage and resolution. I have not only many outward enemies to grapple with, but I have myself, my worst enemy, to encounter and subdue. As for those enemies which are not near me, by the assistance of God's Spirit, I can make pretty good shift to keep them at the sword's point: but this enemy that is gotten within me, has so often foiled and disarmed me, that I have reason to say, as David did of his enemies, It is too strong for me and, as he said of the chief of his, I shall one day fall by the hands of Saul; so have I too much occasion to say, I shall fall by myself, as being myself the greatest enemy to my own spiritual interest and concerns. How necessary is it then that I should raise and muster up all my force and courage, put on my spiritual armour, and make myself strong in the
Lord, and in the power of his might? I know I must strive, before I can enter in at the strait gate; I must win the crown, before I can wear it; and be member of the church militant, before I be admitted into the church triumphant. In a word, I must go through a solitary wilderness, and conquer many enemies, before I come to the land of Canaan; or else I must never be possessed of it. What then? Shall I lose my glory, to balk my duty? Shall I let go my glorious and eternal possession, to save myself from a seeming hardship, which the devil would persuade me to be a trouble and an affliction? Alas! if Christ had laid aside the great work of my redemption, to avoid the undergoing of God's anger and man's malice, what a miserable condition had I been in? And, therefore, whatever taunts and reproaches I meet with, from the presumptuous and profane, the infidel and atheistical reprobates of the age; let them laugh at my profession, or mock at what they are pleased to call preciseness; let them defraud me of my just rights, or traduce and bereave me of my good name and reputation; let them vent the utmost of their poisonous malice and envy against me; I have this comfortable reflection still to support me, that if I suffer all this for Christ's sake, it is in the cause of one who suffered a thousand times more for mine; and, therefore, it ought to be matter of joy and triumph, rather than of grief and dejection to me especially, considering, that these my light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight
glory. Upon the prospect of which, I firmly resolve, notwithstanding the growing strength of sin, and the overbearing prevalency of my own corrupt affections, to undertake all duties, and undergo all miseries, that God, in his infinite wisdom, thinks fit to lay upon me, or exercise my patience in.